Community opposing corporation: toppling Telstra tower plans

A development application for a Telstra telecommunications tower to be located in Wilson Court, Grange, has received a passionate response from residents. (Image source: Sos Grange via Facebook)

By Helen Karakulak | @helen_karakulak

Legal efforts are being pursued by the Grange community to prevent a Telstra telecommunications tower from being developed at Wilson Court, Grange.

Members of the community have rallied to oppose the Telstra tower via social media, displays of protests on their properties, and by exceeding a goal of $8000 via GoFundMe to cover legal costs to block the development.  

Telstra’s development application was received by the City of Charles Sturt Council on 4 November 2020, estimating the cost of the proposed 31.3-metre-tall tower and its partnered equipment shelter to be $200,000.

Telstra are said to have entered into a lease agreement with the Grange Bowling Club which own the land of 11 Wilson Court, the tower’s proposed location.

Visual representation of proposed Telstra Tower at 11 Wilson Court, Grange. (Image source: Radio Frequency National Site Archive)

Allegedly, the agreement between Telstra and the Grange Bowling Club was made without community consultation. The lease of the area was stated in the applicant documentation to be for the value of $18,000 per annum.

Concerned residents are disappointed by the Bowling Club’s decision, evident in the description of the GoFundMe organised by Jason Camery. This stated that the club have “sold out their surrounding community to profit from this detriment”.

This sentiment is echoed in the signage many residents are displaying on their properties, particularly those in view of the Bowling Club on Wilson Court.

The Grange Bowling Club have declined to respond.

On December 15, specialist planning lawyers representing the Grange community lodged a comprehensive representation, including an independent assessment by a landscape architect, to the City of Charles Sturt opposing the development.

In brief, the primary concerns of the tower’s establishment in this residential zone includes:

  • the impact the tower will have on the visual environment of the suburb
  • the impact on surrounding area property values
  • the health and wellbeing of residents
  • the general amenity and character of the area

According to the Facebook page, “SOS Grange”, run by leading members of the community against the tower, approximately 350 statements of representation in support of their cause were confirmed as received by the City of Charles Sturt Council. 

Organisers from SOS Grange have found the community response “overwhelming”.

“It’s obvious that Grange are passionate about our residential area, our children and our community facilities not being sold out,” an SOS Grange spokesperson said.

“Next steps are to continue momentum within the community, gain more MP support and hopefully meet with the bowling club to determine their stance.”

One of the ways in which they’re maintaining this momentum is via their new trailer, which volunteers have been driving around the affected area and surrounding suburbs.

Mark Butler MP has shared his support on social media, stating Telstra “must find a better spot for the tower.”

While the SOS Grange cause has seen a largely positive response, a minority have taken to the comment sections of some posts to make alternative perspectives heard.

“As a local resident, I welcome a tower. It means better mobile coverage and faster speeds for all,” Joseph Rositano commented.

Others have brought up nearby telecommunications towers, using them to question the validity of this community concern.

“…is the Tower on East Tce near Henley Bowl Club OK? Surely …same… same. We like great communications …what’s the alternative at the moment?” Bruno Sartoretto commented.

Should the success of the SOS Grange community opposition continue, the group hope an alternative in this case will set a precedent for other residentially zoned areas.

“SOS Grange are not opposing the technology. We are opposing the development of such a large commercial structure in a residentially zoned area,” SOS Grange spokesperson said.

“We are asking Charles Sturt City Council to find alternative, non-residential locations for telecommunications towers. If we can achieve that for Grange, then councils across Adelaide will hopefully follow suit.”

While the momentum of the Grange community is certainly passionate, resistance to telecommunications towers in the Charles Sturt Council area isn’t new. The nearby towers mentioned by residents in this online discourse once faced similar opposition.

In 2018, residents appealed in the Environment, Resources and Development Court to stop a 35 metre Telstra phone tower from being installed on East Terrace, Henley Beach.

In the wake of their loss, The Messenger reported that an expected 100 local residents went so far as to plan a mock funeral to “mourn the death of Henley Beach’s heritage” as a result of the tower being built.

These past and present community efforts to oppose telecommunication towers demonstrate the threat these towers pose to residential areas is an ongoing concern.

The fate of the proposed Grange Telstra tower remains to be seen. A Council Assessment Panel meeting regarding this matter will be held in February or early March 2021, with the exact date yet to be confirmed.

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